Thursday, June 25, 2020

AG Shapiro: Grand Jury Finds Pennsylvania Failed To Protect Citizens During Natural Gas Fracking Boom

On June 25, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the
findings and recommendations of Pennsylvania’s 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury report on the unconventional oil and gas industry. 
The Grand Jury’s two-year investigation uncovered systematic failure by government agencies in overseeing the fracking industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of industry operations.

In addition to exposing failures on the part of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health, the Grand Jury made eight recommendations to create a more comprehensive legal framework that would better protect Pennsylvanians from the realities of industry operations.

Attorney General Shapiro also announced a new hotline citizens can use to report environmental issues with oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania-- 507-904-2643 or send an email to:

Click Here for a video of the press conference.

Click Here for a transcript of AG Shapiro’s opening statement.

“This report is about preventing the failures of our past from continuing into our future,” said Attorney General Shapiro in a press conference Thursday. “It’s about the big fights we must take on to protect Pennsylvanians — to ensure that their voices are not drowned out by those with bigger wallets and better connections. There remains a profound gap between our Constitutional mandate for clean air and pure water, and the realities facing Pennsylvanians who live in the shadow of fracking giants and their investors.”

This report follows the findings of the Grand Jury’s previous criminal presentments against two fracking companies-- Range Resources and Cabot Oil & Gas-- for their repeated and systematic violation of Pennsylvania environmental law. 

Attorney General Shapiro said during the press conference he could not comment on whether there will be more charges coming in the future, but did say there will be more on this issue.

Range has since pleaded no contest to environmental crimes committed in Washington County, Pennsylvania. These cases were referred to the Office of Attorney General by local District Attorneys.

The report details the initial failure of the Department of Environmental Protection to adequately respond to the unconventional oil and gas industry and also points out that missteps continue to this day.  These failures harmed Pennsylvanians living in close proximity to this industry. 

The grand jurors found that, while the Wolf administration has forced through some improvements at the agency, there continues to be room for meaningful change to occur.

The Grand Jury also heard from many Pennsylvania residents who suffered severe health consequences and lived near unconventional drilling sites. 

Residents testified that their well water was “black sludge,” “cloudy,” and using the contaminated water caused “problems with breathing whenever we were in the shower.” 

Pennsylvania farmers testified that their livestock, which used the same water source as the families, would sometimes become violently ill, infertile, and die. 

Other residents spoke of problems with their air, which became so polluted from stray gas or other chemicals used during industry operations that they could not leave windows open or let their children play outside. 

Parents testified that their children would repeatedly wake up at night with severe nosebleeds caused by increased levels of gas in the air around the fracking sites.

In response to the failures of government oversight and in order to ensure that the regulators have the tools necessary to hold this industry accountable, the Grand Jury’s report details eight recommendations.  

These recommendations would better protect Pennsylvanians from the risk posed by fracking operations and confront the culture of inadequate oversight in the unconventional gas industry and government agencies that oversee their activities:

-- No-Drill Zones: Expanding no-drill zones in Pennsylvania from the required 500 feet to 2,500 feet;

-- Chemical Disclosure: Requiring fracking companies to publicly disclose all chemicals used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing before they are used on-site;

-- Gathering Pipelines: Requiring the regulation of gathering lines, used to transport unconventional gas hundreds of miles;

-- Assess Air Quality: Adding up all sources of air pollution in a given area to accurately assess air quality;

-- Safe Transport Of Waste: Requiring safer transport of the contaminated waste created from fracking sites;

-- Comprehensive Health Response: Conducting a comprehensive health response to the effects of living near unconventional drilling sites;

-- Limit Revolving Door: Limiting the ability of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees to be employed in the private sector immediately after leaving the Department;

-- Direct Criminal Jurisdiction: Allowing the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General original criminal jurisdiction over unconventional oil and gas companies.

“Our government has a duty to set, and enforce, ground rules that protect public health and safety. We are the referees, we are here to prevent big corporations and the powerful industries from harming our communities or running over the rights of citizens,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “When it comes to fracking, Pennsylvania failed. Now it’s time to face the facts, and do what we can to protect the people of this commonwealth by encouraging the Department of Environmental Protection to partner with us and by passing the Grand Jurors’ common-sense reforms.”

Click Here for a copy of the Grand Jury Report.  Click Here for a video of the press conference a fact sheet responding to DEP concerns about the report and other background information.

Click Here for a transcript of AG Shapiro’s opening statement.

Click Here For DEP’s response to the Report.  Click Here for the Health Department’s response.

There are responses to the report from former DEP Secretary Michael Krancer and Scott Perry, DEP Deputy Secretary of Oil and Gas Management.


Click Here for reactions to and comments on the Grand Jury Report.


-- AP-Mark Scolforo: AG Grand Jury Finds Systematic Regulatory Failures In Natural Gas Drilling

-- Rachel McDevitt: Republican Lawmakers Defend Shale Gas Industry After Grand Jury Report Says State Failed to Protect Public Health From Fracking

-- Don Hopey/Laura Legere: AG Shapiro: Grand Jury Report Reveals PA’s Systemic Failure To Regulate Shale Gas Industry

-- Stephen Caruso: AG Shapiro Calls Out Gas Drillers; Faults PA Agencies For Not Adequately Watchdogging The Industry

-- Reid Frazier/Susan Phillips: PA Grand Jury Report On Fracking: DEP Failed To Protect Public Health

-- Charlie Thompson: PA Attorney General’s Report Highlights Shortfalls In State’s Marcellus Shale Oversight

-- Grand Jury Report Blasts DEP, Health Department Over Fracking Failures In PA

-- WITF Smart Talk: Attorney General On Police Reforms, Fracking, Child Abuse

-- AG Shapiro: Grand Jurors Praised For Report On Fracking Impacts, Govt. Oversight

-- Residents Welcome Grand Jury Report Slamming PA Oversight Of Fracking Industry

Related Articles:

-- Attorney General Shapiro: Range Resources Pleads No Contest To Negligent Oversight Of Natural Gas Well Sites In Washington County; To Pay $150,000 In Penalties, Contributions

-- Attorney General Shapiro Files Criminal Charges Against Cabot Oil & Gas For Water, Methane Contamination In Dimock, Susquehanna County

[Posted: June 25, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner